A film is in the works about the extraordinary heroism of Connecticut native and U.S Air Force Sgt. John Chapman.
Actor Jake Gyllenhaal is to star in “Combat Control,” based on the Medal of Honor recipient’s valor and death on a snow-capped mountain in Afghanistan.
To be directed by Sam Hargrave, the film will be based on the book, “Alone at Dawn: Medal of Honor Recipient John Chapman and the Untold Story of the World’s Deadliest Special Operations Force,” by Dan Schilling and Lori Longfritz, according to published reports.
Chapman initially was awarded the Air Force Cross posthumously, but the award was upgraded to the Medal of Honor in 2018 after an investigation that included videoof his actions shot from a CIA drone.
According to a story about the upcoming film in Deadline, an Air Force captain is “tasked with the nearly impossible job of investigating whether Chapman is a worthy recipient of the medal, despite no eyewitnesses to his actions and the top-secret world surrounding clandestine operations. Alexander has to uncover the truth, and in revealing Chapman’s sacrifice to the world, she forges her own path to self-forgiveness and personal redemption.”
Chapman grew up in Windsor Locks and served as an altar boy at St. Robert Bellarmine Church. He graduated in 1983 from Windsor Locks High School, where he was a standout soccer player. Friends and family recalled Chapman’s sense of humor and the time in his senior year when he arrived at school as the “Jolly Green Giant,” spending the following week scrubbing off green face paint.
He joined the Air Force in 1985 and volunteered for highly competitive special forces duty because he didn’t like his initial assignment involving computer work, relatives have said. Kevin Chapman has said his brother excelled at the dangerous job because he had no fear.
“John walked through the valley of death in Afghanistan and he feared not,” Chapman said at a memorial service for his brother in 2002.
Among the most highly skilled of all U.S. military service members, combat controllers are trained in air traffic control, underwater and airborne operations, demolition, survival in all environments, weapons and communications, according to the Air Force. Their mission is to deploy, undetected, into combat and hostile environments and set up assault zones and airfields while conducting fire support, counter-terrorism, reconnaissance and other operations.
On March 4, 2002, Chapman, 36, was with a special forces team sent to establish an observation post atop Takur Ghar mountain in Afghanistan. A rocket-propelled grenade hit the team’s helicopter and Seal Neil Roberts, a Navy petty officer first class, fell from the aircraft. The pilot of the damaged chopper managed to land it safely a few miles away.
The team returned to the mountain on another helicopter to rescue Roberts. He died and the ensuing firefight killed six more U.S. service men, including Chapman. The citation from the Medal of Honor in 2018 reads, in part:
“He fearlessly charged an enemy bunker, up a steep incline in thigh-deep snow and into hostile fire, directly engaging the enemy. Upon reaching the bunker, Sergeant Chapman assaulted and cleared the position, killing all enemy occupants.
“With complete disregard for his own life, Sergeant Chapman deliberately moved from cover only 12 meters from the enemy, and exposed himself once again to attack a second bunker, from which an emplaced machine gun was firing on his team. During this assault from an exposed position directly in the line of intense fire, Sergeant Chapman was struck and injured by enemy fire.
“Despite severe, mortal wounds, he continued to fight relentlessly, sustaining a violent engagement with multiple enemy personnel before making the ultimate sacrifice.”
Windsor Locks residents celebrated John Chapman Day on Sept. 30, 2018.
First Selectman Chris Kervick has said of the Medal of Honor, “We are in awe of John’s Chapman’s actions and sacrifice and we need to tell his story.
“But on a deeper level, it is also important that we emphasize the qualities of selflessness and devotion to others John Chapman displayed throughout his life and on the day he died,” Kervick said. “These are characteristics which we seek to instill in all our local boys and girls. These are the best of human qualities, and these characteristics are important whether we are in the classroom, in the workplace, on a ballfield or in a pitched battle on a frozen and desolate mountain.”
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